Wilfried Joye


Bernie Mullen

‘I am the potter… you are the clay…’

‘I am the potter… you are the clay…’

Wilfried Joye was born in Dadizele, Belgium in 1939. He was ordained a priest in 1964 in the order of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. He has been working as a missionary in Potchfestroom in South Africa since 1966. He has often been exhibited in S A and in Belgium and his paintings often portray rural life and the human situation. His works are vibrant and appealing and he uses the fish as his symbol in most of his worked. This is because the fish represents insight (it never closes its eyes) these remain open for the reception of life and truth. The mouth of the fish is always readily open and this symbolises capacity for the ‘food of life’ in its purity and fullness. The paintings of Joye are often religious and he presents to the world a journey of deep faith, the sacredness of life and the joy of hope. Fr Joye was a close friend of Fr Frans Claerhout and he often exhibited with him in South Africa and internationally.

Opening Prayer:

I am not my own,
I am your clay
Held misshapen in your hands
Of wheeling; spinning me with all creation
Into this earth-existence.
Transforming my most precious comforts;
My ancient roots of holding
Into yielding springs of joy.
You merge my mud with
Divinity that I cannot know.

Through my becoming being
Flows your freedom’s portend
Of my journey’s end:
Rivers of influence
Ribbon in my destined mould.
I move from slow formation’s blindness
To integration with love’s lit Eye
And in union with your Light
I am given sight.

With wonder Lord,
I do accept this gift of Life.
I am at peace.
I am your Potter’s measure
Of eternal clay…

Centring Music:

In My Dreams

Composed by Sarah Class
Sung by Cantamus: CD: Cantamus Aurora:
Warner Music Limited: LC: 2822

Scripture Reading:

Jeremiah: 18: 1-6 (African Bible)

‘This word came to Jeremiah from the Lord: Rise up, be off to the potter’s house; there I will give you my message. I went down to the potter’s house and there, he was working at the wheel. Whenever the object of clay which he was making turned out badly in his hand, he tried again, making of the clay another object of whatever sort he pleased. Then the word of the Lord came to me: Can I not do to you; house of Israel, as this potter has done says the Lord? Indeed, like clay in the hand of the potter, so you are in my hand, house of Israel…

Pause for refection:


Wilfried Joye, in his portraits, often gives us two views of being: that which is finite and that belongs to our human perceptions, our personal distortions of truth, our longing for fulfilment and that which is incomprehensible and divine. These two views are vastly different yet, this does not mean we are left lonely in our self made desert because the Divine transcends all that we are and makes us perfect in Love. In his painting of ‘I am the Potter’ we are given opportunity to reflect on the wonders that God prepares for us if we surrender in peace to God’s work. If we are ready to allow the forming, moulding, breaking and restoration that this entails: if we simply allow God’s will to be done in us, ‘on earth as it is in heaven…’

Pause for reflection:


Extract; ‘thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven...’
From the Aramaic translation of The Lord’s Prayer
(Prayers of the Cosmos) Neil Douglas-Klotz

‘Your one desire then acts with ours,
As in all light, so in
All forms.

Let our wills move together
In your vortex, as stars and planets
Swirl through the sky.

Help us beyond our ideals
And sprout acts of compassion
For all creatures.
Your one desire then acts with ours….

Pause for reflection:

Our sensitivity to dilemma is awakened by the narrow face portion where the bulging eye speaks of distortion and lack of essential sight, or in spiritual terms, insight. We cannot see nor comprehend our world and find meaning in it if we are blind and diseased; if we fail to look firmly at ourselves in the context of co-creation and loving response. We remain angry at the One who makes us, who gives us what pleases Love, what Love desires for our existence, what translates into purpose for us. We argue with ultimate Wisdom. The sorry eye hangs out of its socket and is hooded by the swollen lid as though the artist is emphasising our unwillingness to give our sickness to the healer. We persist in protecting and hiding what is sick. This attitude brings us sorrow. We are deeply stirred by what we could conceive as the smudge of human weeping that runs from the eye and rivers down the bridge of the strongly curved nose that forms a path along centrality. We are also made aware, by the heavy line that that forms the left side of the nose, that there is no nostril. Our ability to sense and to breathe what is crucial to what makes our person is missing. We are further disturbed by the sulk swollen lip that pouts its discontent and that perhaps, criticises its maker. We have here a vision of the human ego unyielding and life resistant. It contradicts its nature to belong fully to Love.


Your one desire then acts with ours…
As we find your love in ours,
Let heaven and nature form
A new creation.

Unite the crowd within
In a vision of passionate purpose:
Light mates with form.
Create in me a divine cooperation-
From many selves, one voice,
One action.
Your one desire then acts with ours…

Despite the deformation of half the human face we rejoice as we contemplate the theme of the painting: ’I am the Potter, you are the clay...’ The deep earthy colours of mud lighten into fine water-lines that rib over the head, nose and eye. These remind us that God’s work in us is one of small interferences in our psyche, in our fixed dispositions. God works in the fragile, intimate and often unconscious core of our being. This leaves us bereft of our constructed protection and draws us very deeply into the mystery of our creator’s intentions. Our mud remains mud but is serviced by the clear blue water that runs over and pools around our human form. This seems to speak of cleansing and of immersion into another life form; that of God’s in us. The eye on the right is twice the size of that on the left. It is widely open to all its surrounds it is fully exposed to light and the lid does nothing to shield it from the running water that causes and courses new life.

The inner curve of the nose on the right has a well defined nostril flared and ready for all that it can sense. Finally, Joye contrasts the sulk pouched lip on the left with the soft cup of reception on the right. He thus reminds us that ‘whenever the object of clay turned out badly in his hand, he (the potter) tried again, making of the clay of whatever sort he pleased.’ We therefore should have no argument with the person we are. God has created us for his/her own purposes. We need just endeavour to discover and respond to that. It is this that brings us true peace. It is this that brings together the kingdom of earth and heaven.

Pause for reflection:


Your one desire then acts with ours…
Let your heart’s fervent desire
Unite heaven and earth
Through our harmony.
Your one desire then acts with ours,
As in all light, so in
All forms.

Pause for reflection

Closing Music:

Beautiful peace

Composed by Sarah Class
Sung by Cantamus
CD Cantamus Aurora
Warner Music Ltd
CD: LC: 2822

Copyright © 2009 Wilfried Joye. All Rights Reserved.

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